Leptospirosis is rare in California and most infected
Californians are exposed in another state or country. The chances of getting
leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by avoiding swimming or wading in water
that might be contaminated with animal urine. People who have contact with
contaminated water or soil at work (e.g., farmers, sewer workers, veterinarians)
or during recreation (e.g., swimmers, campers, fishing enthusiasts) are at
greatest risk and should wear protective clothing or footwear. Dog owners should
consult with their veterinarian about vaccinating their dog against
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Leptospira. There are many different types of Leptospira which can affect both people and animals.
How do people get leptospirosis?
Wild and domestic animals infected with Leptospira shed the bacteria in their urine. When people have contact with urine-contaminated water, Leptospira bacteria can enter through broken skin or the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes). People can become infected also when they ingest contaminated water or handle tissues from an infected animal.
Who is at greatest risk of getting leptospirosis?
Persons who have direct contact with possibly contaminated water are at greatest risk; these include participants in recreational water sports (swimming, boating, and fishing), agricultural workers, and campers. People may also be at risk of leptospirosis during natural disasters when normal sewage treatment and municipal water supplies are compromised.
What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?
The symptoms of leptospirosis can vary widely. Most persons have no symptoms or a very mild illness consisting of fever, headache, chills, red eyes, and sore muscles for a few days. In a few persons, leptospirosis can persist and affect the kidneys, liver, lungs, eyes, heart, and brain.
The time between a person’s exposure to the bacteria and becoming sick can range from two
days to four weeks.
How is leptospirosis infection diagnosed?
Leptospirosis can be diagnosed with blood or urine tests.
How is leptospirosis treated?
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin. These should be given early in the disease. Intravenous antibiotics may be needed for persons with more severe symptoms.
How can infection be prevented?
The chances of getting leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by avoiding swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine. People whose job or recreational activities expose them to contaminated water or soil should wear protective clothing or footwear. Because rodents are common carriers of Leptospira, discouraging rodents from around homes and buildings is important. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian about vaccinating their dogs against leptospirosis.
Where can I get more information about leptospirosis?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information available on their Leptospirosis webpage